Go ahead and fill in the date here ______________. If the answer is yesterday, congratulations. If you can’t remember any time recently, you should stop and figure out why you are not doing this.
Think about it. When you are looking to hire a professional what do you do? Of course, you ask people you know and trust who they would recommend, right? Well, a referral is an implied recommendation. Clients who give you the name of someone to contact feel comfortable about the expertise you bring to the table and its potential to help the business or person they are referring. So, again, how often do you ask satisfied customers for a referral? I bet you are thinking, “Not often enough.”
How to Ask for Referrals
So, how does one go about asking for a referral? Here are few guidelines that could help you do this more often:
- Ask the right client. This sounds like a no-brainer, but the best clients to ask for a referral may not be your largest clients—they may be those with whom you enjoy a true partnership spirit. Think about the clients that value your input and expertise, those clients who don’t make a major move without at least seeking your input, and those clients for whom your solutions have made a big difference. They will anxious to help you.
- Be prepared to explain why you are asking. “Elisa, you and I work together well. I love the ideas we have built together and how well they are working for you. You probably know some other business owners from the Chamber, the club, or just friends who run an enterprise that could benefit from the kind of work we are doing together. Would you feel comfortable sharing a few names with me? It’s possible we could solve some problems for them as well, we’ll see.” If you have chosen the right client to ask, chances are they will have some suggestions for you.
- Ask at the right time. You know there are seminal moments in a business relationship when the window is open for a conversation about whom they might refer. There are many times you demonstrate value—when you have helped the client identify a problem he or she couldn’t see clearly alone, when a solution comes together that would not have been possible without your work together, or when the plan produces demonstrable return on investment. Don’t let these opportunities pass by!
- Have a plan. Look over your account list and identify those current clients you think would be most likely to give you referrals based on the work you have done with them and the relationship you have developed. Then approach each of them, thinking in advance how to frame your request.
- Set a goal. If you have not asked anyone for referral in a while, think about getting a plan in motion. Maybe one ask per week—or maybe as you get into the flow, you'll find ways to do this more often than that.
Remember, there is only one person standing in the way of you doing this—the one in mirror. You certainly have a core of happy customers you deal with right? You have solved problems and produced a good return for a number of clients, right? Think about a professional in your life who brings great value to you. Would you refer them to someone if they asked? Well, there you go. Start asking for referrals more often. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.